HYPERMILING: A Frugal Journey Ends. Sort of.

I was walking to my car after work recently when a maroon pickup roared past.

Hard on the brakes, a quick look at the intersection, and the engine growled again as the truck accelerated – to another stop sign.

All I could think of is, “Man, that guy’s wasting a lot of money for nothing.” I never would have thought that before.

I’m not here to wag my finger with a holier-than-thou rant about drivers like that. I was “that guy” about two months ago.

I didn’t know if hypermiling was going to work, but I decided to bring you guys along for the slow, slow ride. As far as the blog is concerned, I’m done.

I’ve become a bit obsessed with, and transformed by, the experience. I’ve discovered the near limits of my car’s performance on the opposite end of the spectrum. I’m much more aware of the cost of driving. I even learned a lot about myself.

Usually we write stories and never hear a word from the public. With these blog entires (especially when they ran in the paper.) I heard from more people than I ever have – especially the one about coasting in neutral. (BTW, I don’t do it much anymore. Sixth gear works fine. And a informative morsel – the nice folks at Kitsap County District Court did some sleuthing. Guess how many tickets they found for coasting in neutral? One.)

In two months, I burned five tanks of dino juice and averaged 33.7 miles per gallon. (And that includes a couple tanks where my right foot got a little heavy.) Up from 28 before. I’m living proof that a lead-footed rat race commuter can save money without queuing up for a Prius.

Did I mention I saved about $50?

Some people hypermile as a political statement against American dependence on foreign oil. Some people do it to save the environment. Well and good.

I just want to keep more money in the bank. Feel free to choose your own reasons. That’s the crux of hypermiling – it’s your choice. You don’t have to boost your mpgs, but the money’s there waiting to be saved.
Do any combination of these things, and you’ll save at least a little.

* Keep your tires properly inflated.
* Change your oil.
* Take all the junk out of your trunk.
* Accelerate gently, and try to gently slow to a stop.
* You know the speed limit? Obey it.
* Imagine there’s an egg between your foot and the gas pedal.
* Unless an emergency maneuver requires it, don’t drive over 60 on the highway. Use cruise control to prevent your lead foot from taking over.
Pick out more of the legal hypermiling tips, and you’ll save even more.

More importantly, the first step is to change the way you think about driving. You’ve got to convince yourself that rocketing around usually doesn’t get you there much faster – ESPECIALLY in urban driving. (That’s where my greatest gains were made.) On the highway, stay right and take a deep breath. It’s OK to let people pass you. If you’re late for work, is 2 minutes really a big deal? It can be, but at least consider it. If it’s Saturday and you’re just getting groceries, what’s the hurry?

Now that I’m done blogging about this adventure, I will keep hypermiling. I’m hooked. (Maybe not on long road trips.) We can’t control how much we pay per gallon, but we can control how many gallons we use and how many miles we drive. I’m cutting back on how much I drive, too.

And I’ve come to accept that slow and steady is OK.

Don’t get complacent because gas prices are a little lower. We all know that over time it’s a graph that favors climbing the Y axis. Only four years ago gas topped $2.

More often, we either grumble about what we payed at the last fill up, or wax nostalgic about when gas was only (insert small number here.). Consider the future, and whether you’ll change the way you drive.
I’ve been number happy the last couple months with the blog, so I’ll toss one last equation your way. (Help calculating is HERE and HERE.)

Imagine it’s 2012 and you have the same respectably-economical 24 mpg car, and you drive the same average of 15,000 miles a year. And get this, gas is $6 a gallon.

Here’s an odd way to imagine how you’ll pay for your petrol.

Drive over to the bank and ask the (now stunned) teller for a wheelbarrow packed with rolls of quarters. Sorry, you’re going to get terrible gas mileage on the drive home.

Anyway, grab a couple rolls every time you get behind the wheel. For the next 365 days, every time your odometer ticks off another mile, toss a quarter out the window.

I’ll let you do the math this time.

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